There’s quite something to be said about reaching the ‘sixth floor’. You can look back with regret at the opportunities missed, doors you didn’t knock, wrong corners and stumbles on your way up.
You can look upstairs with fear and apprehension that there is no turning back, that you are nearer to the rooftop than you are to the ground floor.
But there is the bright side, too. From this altitude, you can open the windows and deeply breathe in clean, fresh air unpolluted by the political garbage that litters our country.
From this vantage point, you can see far and wide on a clear day in Nairobi, simultaneously taking in the snow caps of both Mt Kenya and Mt Kilimanjaro.
You can stand above the hustle and bustle of the daily grind, look down at the milling crowds below and try to make sense of all the noise and confusion.
BIRD'S EYE VIEW
From the panoramic bird’s-eye view, you can see the path just travelled, map the potholes, hurdles and roadblocks so that you can be in good stead to dispense navigational advice for the benefit of those following in your footsteps.
To reach here, you will have gone over and around mountains, traversed valleys, cut through impenetrable forests, waded through floods and overcome all manner of obstacles placed by Man and Nature.
And for every trial and tribulation thrown your way, you will also have encountered the things that made it all bearable.
You will have precariously balanced on the unexpected log across the raging river. Family, friends and colleagues will have given comfort, encouragement and support in trying times. There will have been strangers who picked you up when you were down, the storm that cleared as you set off on a trek or even the government bureaucracy that, at a critical moment, delivered against all expectations.
Those life lessons are not yours to hoard. By the time you reach the sixth floor, you should have garnered enough to dispense, and the beauty of it is that wisdom and experience does not evaporate when shared.
From the sixth floor you can, of course, reflect on where you have come from and give a little thought to where you are going. You will still have some unfulfilled goals and it might be the time to accelerate those pursuits.
There will be things on your bucket list — for me, the bungee jump, the zip line and another ascent up Mt Kenya 10 years after the first one — not yet crossed off.
But often it’s not about you but about others. It’s about those whom you most directly influence, extending to friends, schoolmates, the local pub, work and so on. Basically, it starts from family and extends to the neighbourhood, village, town, country and, ultimately, the entire humanity.
We rant and rave on spaces such as this, point accusing fingers at those in positions of authority and stand on our high horses to offer unsolicited advice to everyone — from the village headman up to the President.
But do we do so from some high moral pedestal? Are we honest, truthful and selfless or just engaging in self-gratification and partisan politics?
These are not idle questions. Ultimately, it boils down to that most basic question of whether we preoccupy ourselves with trying to fix the mess at the top instead of shaping society from the bottom.
Nearly all those in political leadership in Kenya today are beyond redemption. We preach against corruption, greed and incompetence in leadership but then foolishly go ahead to elect another bunch of thieves and incompetents!
Maybe it’s time we gave up on the current bunch and resolved to nurture and mentor a new crop not indoctrinated into theft, greed and tribalism.
However, such a grand reshaping of society will not be realised through constitutional engineering designed only to add more miscreants to the parasitic classes.
Everything must start on how we teach our children, grandchildren and all others following in our footsteps to be good, honest and upright citizens.
This will not be easy. Human beings are not clay but individuals, who must grow up to be their own distinct and unique selves.
The challenges of parenting, the hits and misses at the basic family level, show how daunting a task it would be trying to create a perfect society.
But it still is worth trying, for just a few good men and women will lead to the critical mass that lifts us from the morass. There’s yet a helluva lot of work to be done from the sixth floor.
[email protected] @MachariaGaitho
Happy 60th birthday, Mr Gaitho! — Editor